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Future fuels: 69% of vehicles will still run on petrol in 2015

69% of vehicles will still run on petrol in 2015 In 1998, all European car makers voluntarily agreed to reduce the fleet average of CO2 emissions to 140 g/km by 2008 and 120 g/km by 2012. However, with the 2008 target fast approaching and the EU Commission expecting the Association des Constructeurs Européens d’Automobiles (ACEA) to bring down the industry fleet average of CO2 emission to 130 g/km by 2012 according to the new agreement rather than 120 g/km as agreed earlier, European car manufacturers are facing an uphill struggle.

In an attempt to reduce emissions, the EU Commission has proposed a blend of ethanol with petrol and diesel . It has also advised manufacturers to install gear-shift indicators and tyre-pressure monitoring systems in new vehicles to assist consumers. And many other large-scale technological developments and efforts are required by car makers to reduce CO2 emissions

So what’s the way forward with fuels and technology? Global growth consulting company Frost & Sullivan says: “As a medium-term strategy over the next three to five years, OEMs are expected to introduce micro hybrids, mild hybrids, ethanol, biofuels and LPG into their fleets to reduce CO2 emissions,” notes Frost & Sullivan. “These technologies offer increased fuel efficiency and reduced emissions, which help OEMs reduce their fleet average CO2 emissions.”

In order to meet future CO2 emission targets, a car maker will need to have 40 to 50 per cent of its fleet powered by diesel and 10 to 15 per cent of the fleet running on biofuels or natural gas, or on a hybrid powertrain.

While some volume car makers, such as Fiat, PSA and Renault, have fleet averages of 140g/km to 150 g/km of CO2 and are well positioned to meet the ACEA target for 2008, premium car makers, with a fleet average of 160g/km to 190 g/km of CO2 are not likely to be able to achieve the same.

Reducing Emissions

Going forward, reducing emissions below 140 g/km of CO2 will be possible mainly with the help of alternative fuels and hybrids (micro, mild and full). While OEMs are aware of this fact, further development or market acceptance of these alternative fuels and hybrids is restrained by the distribution network, availability and high implementation costs.

While advancements in engine technology have helped reduce emissions to an average of 160 g/km, hybrids, ethanol, biofuels, compressed natural gas (CNG), hydrogen and fuel cells are necessary to reduce them further. The main priority of car makers today is to reduce emissions , which will require the help of local governments and fuel suppliers to promote alternative fuels and hybrids in a cost-effective manner.

Frost & Sullivan predicts that, despite the focus on developing and promoting environmentally friendly engine types, 69 percent of vehicles globally will continue to run on petrol in 2015. 26 percent of vehicles are likely to use diesel, while approximately 6 percent will be petrol-electric hybrid vehicles .

The company forecasts that petrol vehicles will tend to predominate in the major automotive markets such as North America and Japan, though hybrid vehicles will also gain popularity in both regions. Diesel engines will establish a strong presence in Europe and India, with their market share in India set to grow from 29 percent in 2005 to 50 percent by 2015.

Alternative fuel vehicles will also gain market share as the global focus on reducing emissions increases. The number of these vehicles will increase to 3 million worldwide by 2015, with ethanol and natural gas vehicles expected to be the most prominent among them. Hybrid vehicles will dominate the market for alternative powertrain technologies.

Advanced valvetrain technologies such as variable valvetrain are fast gaining in popularity and look set to displace conventional fixed timing systems for petrol vehicles. Injection technologies will follow the same trend, gaining an edge over fixed timing for petrol engines.

Turbocharged engines will appear in a large number of diesel vehicles globally, and future-generation vehicles will also witness downsized engines with additional boosting capacity to retain the same power, while reducing emissions and fuel consumption.

What about LPG and CNG?

India and Pakistan have enforced mandatory conversion to alternative fuels for all public transport in certain local regions. Both these countries as well as Iran are expected to record the highest growth in LPG/CNG sales. Latin American countries are also moving toward large-scale utilization of CNG vehicles with Argentina and Brazil being the largest consumers of CNG kits in the world.

LPG kits will continue to mainly dominate the market in the EU, Russia and Turkey, and also other markets in the rest of the world. India and Iran accounted for 20 per cent of global sales of CNG kits in 2006, and this is likely to increase to more than 42 per cent by 2012.

Competition from other alternative fuels, such as ethanol and bio fuels that are just as eco-friendly, could challenge the growth of the LPG and CNG markets. The lack of appropriate infrastructure for the distribution and refuelling of these fuels and low levels of customer awareness about the benefits of alternative fuels are other factors hindering market development.

Frost & Sullivan says that an integrated approach involving car makers, investors, stakeholders, customers, local governments and fuel suppliers is important to reduce emissions below 140 g/km, particularly in the case of premium car makers.

It remains to be seen if any local legislative bodies will impose penalties on OEMs who are unable to comply with the ACEA agreement by 2008. Yet it is quite clear that some OEMs will not meet the agreed limits by 2008 and will likely have to answer to stakeholders, legislative bodies and consumers.